Frituras de cangrejo (cont'd) and Moros y cristianos

I decided to use the crab fritters as an appetizer/side to the rice and beans so I fried them while the rice was simmering.  They turned out pretty well.  Very fluffy.  Mom said I should try uncanned crab next time.  The crab flavor wasn’t very strong and I think it could have used more pepper and salt.  The size of the fritters depends on how much you put into each one (obviously), but it still makes a lot.  In the end they were good (my dad ate several), but I think I liked the yuca fritters better.

As for the moros y cristianos, that was a project.  I felt like I was in the kitchen for hours.  (I sort of was today.)  Moros y cristianos are rice and black beans cooked together.  It’s also called congri but according to cookbooks that’s actually red beans and rice cooks together.  (My family calls it congri anyway.)  The name “moros y cristianos” literally means Moors and Christians, refering to the 800 year struggle between the Muslim moors from Africa and Spanish Christians over control of Spain. (Guess who won.  And guess which one are the black beans.)  On menus it’s sometimes shortened to Moros, which might spark confused looks among the uninformed or chuckles among those with a morbid sense of humor.  No humans are harmed however, in the making of this dish.   You need to soak the beans overnight if you used dried.  You can also used canned but I’m not sure how to do that yet.

I used a pressure cooker for the first time with the help of my mother since I didn’t want to wait 2 hours.  You put the beans in the pressure cooker over medium heat and when the little attachment on top starts making the little clicking noise, you start counting down the minutes (10-15 in this case).  After it’s done, don’t just open it or the pressure will just make the beans explode everywhere.  To depressurize it quickly put the cooker in the sink and run it under cold water until the little attachment stops making noise and releasing air.  Then you set it aside while you make the rest of the stuff.  (See recipe tab for full instructions)

I had dad taste-test it to adjust the seasonings and he requested more salt, cumin, and the addition of some oregano.  (The amount on the recipes tab is a guess.  Taste-testing it is very helpful if you have someone around that knows what it should taste like.)  The taste turned out great, but the consistency was not quite where I wanted it to be.  It was more sticky than it should be.  It’s supposed to be desgranado, which doesn’t really have an English equivalent but mean that the grains should be separate, not too moist and stuck together (in bad cases mushy).  My parents suggested that maybe adding another cup of rice might have fixed this.  Or draining the beans, measuring the liquid and limiting the cups of that liquid to one cup more that the rice (3 cups).  I’ll have to experiment.  All in all the taste came out well and that’s the important part.  My parents were impressed that I got the taste right the first time (with dad’s help of course).  They said it’s one of those things that you either pull off or mess up completely.

During dinner they talked about life in Spain since I told them I was considering studying abroad in Spain next year.  After they left Cuba when they were little, both lived in Spain for a while.  Dad remembered being put in the corner all the time for messing up vosotros conjugations and not reading with a Spanish accent.  Mom remembered being humiliated by evil nuns at school.  Dad also talked about the food.  Going to bars with his dad and eating the tapas they offered such as delicious Spanish chorizo.  They began talking about great Cuban desserts they used to eat, things that my grandmothers made.  I ought to apprentice myself to Aya or Gudelia (my step-grandmother) and learn a thing or two.  The stuff they talked about sounded great.  It would be a shame if those old delicious (if time-consuming) recipes disappear.


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